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Developmental milestones -- 4 to 5 years

Children crave independence as well as get serious and realistic as they reach the age of 5.

Written by Dr Anitha Anchan |Updated : December 21, 2015 11:09 AM IST

Children master certain age-specific skills and functions with each turn of the calendar. As they reach the age of 5 they crave independence as well as get serious and realistic. They begin to get a sense of what is fantasy and what is reality. This is the time when children can be let to make their own choices in an organised and controlled way.


By the time children are 5 years old, they achieve greater balance and coordinate movements well. They are skilful at directions and speed control of their movements.

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1. The pre-schoolers can play and be active for longer periods. They can hop and stand on one foot for longer periods, skip, jump, roll, swing and climb.

2. Children get better at ball play by the age of 5. They can kick a ball as well as catch a small or medium-sized ball.

4. A bicycle with support wheels could be a perfect gift for a child s fifth birthday. Children at this age will be able to ride a bike with support wheels due to their improved gross motor skill and sense of balance.

5. Improved hand-eye coordination: This helps children build tower using many blocks, do puzzles and eat with fork and spoon. They may even use a table knife and dress and undress on their own. They can lace the shoes, but tying them is an ordeal yet to be mastered.

6. Time to be toilet trained: While children can be toilet trained by the time they are 3 if they exhibit physical and mental readiness, a good number of kids aren't ready to start until they are 4 years old. They can now prepare toothbrush and brush teeth and use washroom on their own. Many outgrow bed-wetting as they reach the age of 5.

7. Have improved finger dexterity: Children use thumb, index and third finger (tripod grasp) to hold a pencil which is the perfect or most efficient way to do so. The pencil is held between the thumb and index finger as it rests on the middle finger. Children are capable of writing some legible letters as they reach 5.

Warning signs:When should you worry

  • Lack of self-care abilities like undressing on own, brushing teeth, washing and drying hands, etc.
  • Inability to build a tower with blocks
  • Little or no grip holding a pencil


The pre-schoolers will have so much to tell! The understanding of language multiplies rapidly as children seek out new words. The more they interact with adults the more their vocabulary grows. Expansion in their vocabularies helps them initiate conversations and candidly share thoughts and personal experiences.

1. Children can now use more complex and compound sentences to communicate. They achieve clear pronunciation of words and fluency in speech. They can tell simple stories.

2. The pre-schoolers are able to understand and use basic rules of grammar. They will know singulars and plurals, right tense past present and future, and use pronouns correctly. Children by the age of five can understand opposites. They know and use more adjectives.

3. Children can recognize many letters and relate some letters with their sounds

Warning signs: When should you worry

  • Trouble speaking
  • Dysfluency in speech
  • Inability to form a sentence with more than three to four words
  • Incorrect usage of pronouns
  • Persistent drooling


Children develop greater self-control and skills as they reach their fifth birthday. They are creative, imaginative and enthusiastic. The try new experiences and are eager to solve problems.

1. The pre-schoolers are capable of learning mathematic concepts and may use logical reasoning. They can recognize and count numbers up to ten, or some even till twenty. They can identify greater and smaller numbers. They may even be able to add and subtract single digit numbers. They may have knowledge of days and months. They can differentiate day and night but are still not well versed with telling time.

2. They can identify and differentiate between colours and shapes, and can sort objects based on it. They are the young architects in the making. You can look at the world through their eyes as they create various models from blocks. They sort, select, evaluate and rectify while designing their models.

3. Depending on their interest, children may be keen in dance, music, art, drama, etc. They are able to identify changes in pitch and tempo of music. They may even make up their own songs. Their dance may be smooth and rhythmic. They may imitate or enact real life situations.

4. Children are now old enough to be able to tell apart reality from fantasy. Their curiosity makes them question why and how and try to find answers to them.

5. They can be good planners. They are able to plan and implement simple tasks.

Warning signs: When should you worry

  • Avoids making eye contact
  • Inability to stack blocks
  • Lack of interest in interactive games
  • Unable to understand simple commands


Children achieve a greater control over expression of emotions by the age of 5. They learn to express their emotions in more socially acceptable ways. They are better at controlling their tears.

1. Children now begin to appreciate others feelings. They are better able to regulate and manage their own emotions. They may be even able to talk about them.2. Get better at interacting with a group of people

2. The pre-schoolers become less self-centred. They listen when others talk, show empathy, etc. They may worry about caretaker s wellbeing and availability.

3. Children make new friends and try to please them to fit in. They love pretend play or role play like playing doctor, thief-police, etc.

4. They understand rules and are aware of what s right and what s not.

5. Gender awareness: Children develop a strong sense of being a girl or boy by the age of five. Watch out what s being portrayed! They may associate certain behaviours with being girl or boy.

Warning signs:When should you worry

  • Does not respond to members outside the family
  • Withdrawn, aggressive or argumentative behaviour, violent behaviour
  • Trouble with self-control when angry or upset
  • Lack of confidence, lack of interest in activities, disinterested in playing with other children
  • Disregard for consequences of breaking rules, attempts at self-injury

This article has been verified by Dr Mona P Gajre, Professor of Paediatrics & Head Learning Disability Clinic, Lokmanya Tilak General Hospital, Mumbai.

You may also like to read:

Developmental milestones 0 to 1 year

Development milestones 1 to 2 years

Developmental milestone: Has your baby started walking?

Developmental milestones: Should you worry about your child s delayed speech?

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